Tag Archives: Common Roots Urban Farm

FHC Submission to HRM Review of Regional Plan

We are deeply concerned about recent incursions into the Halifax Common…

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area was to be considered for planning purposes in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

…from proposed multiple high rises (16-, 28-, 29- and 30-storey and ~900 cars – similar in mass to the Nova Centre) at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Robie Street; the expansion of major QE2 facilities onto parkland adjacent to the Natural History Museum and along Bell Road with two parking garages; the exclusive use of the Wanderer’s Grounds by a professional soccer team; the overwhelming use of the remaining open space of the Common of organized sports and programmed uses; the eviction of the Common Roots Urban Farm from the area and the slow progress of the Halifax Common Master Plan by HRM Staff begun in 2017 and that has been without significant public input for nearly two years. 

It is important to understand that the 240 acres of the Halifax Common from Robie to South Park and North Park Streets and Cunard to South Street, “given to the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever,” in 1763, has deep historical significance; that it is one of the defining features of the urban form of Halifax; that it serves as a neighbourhood park in an area of increasing density under the Centre Plan; that Centre Plan Package B currently calls for no new green space; and most importantly that the diminishment of the Halifax Common has been going on for generations and will not stop with this generation unless given protection. 

While the city needs to increase density on the peninsula we believe that high-rises on and next to the Halifax Common are a most inappropriate and unnecessary built-form as these dominate the skyline, create shadows and wind, disrupt and demolish neighbourhoods as well as increase traffic. We are especially disappointed that the streetscapes on the perimeter of the Halifax Common will now be transformed into walls of high-rises. For example, two blocks adjacent to Quinpool Road on Robie Street may soon have five towers on the western edge despite enormous public opposition and against HRM staff recommendations.

We believe the process for determining the height of these buildings at these locations has been illegitimate and without any public benefit.  Where is the transparency for these decisions that one would expect in a democracy? What are the criteria apart from the drive of developers? Why is there no balance of interests?

A member of HRM Planning staff said during a recent Zoom meeting that unforeseen Covid restrictions on organized sports gave us a “unique social experiment” in which we caught a glimpse of a new vision of the Halifax Common, its spontaneous use by individuals and small groups for informal activities, and its full value to the people of Halifax. On a warm day, hundreds of people could be seen spread out over the Common, particularly on the broad spaces of the North Common. This must be protected. And the 20% of the Halifax Common that is surface parking must be renaturalized.

Protecting and adding new wilderness within HRM’s entirety and planning for a greenbelt should be a top priority, but adding thousands of residents to the Peninsula also requires that the city ensure there is new green space added to the urban core too. We recommend that HRM not sell any public lands on the Peninsula and work to incorporate the Centennial Pool lands, the site of the former School for the Blind and in future, the hospital properties on the South Common into new park area that can extend a green network through the Halifax Common in all directions for humans and creatures that move through this area. 

We also recommend a map be developed that shows potential green routing from the Halifax Harbour to the North West Arm and from Point Pleasant Park to Africville to create a vision of what our future can be and then work towards it. It is a climate crisis now, not in the future-we must work with nature to help handle its effects, to support biodiversity and to aid citizens’ physical and mental health. 

The Halifax Common as a gift to the people of Halifax must be protected. An example for this protection is the Provincial legislation given to the Dartmouth Common nearly thirty years ago. As executive members of the Friends of Halifax Common we request the Regional Plan take our recommendations as they are intended and that HRM Council and planning staff begin steps to give equal protection to the Halifax Common as the Dartmouth Common currently enjoys and take all opportunities to expand public open green space on the Peninsula. 

The enclosed  map from the 1994 Halifax Common Plan shows the boundary of the Halifax Common’s 240 acres and the area that Halifax committed to plan for and to recapture, to not give up and to retain. Let’s make this happen. 

Common Roots Urban Farm – Transplant it to St Pat’s!

Gardening doula Jayme Melrose at Common Roots Urban Farm (Chronicle Herald, Christian LaForce / Staff / 2015)

An idea planted by FHC led Jayme Melrose and  her volunteers to transform QEHS lands into a place of productive beauty. Now the farm is evicted and still homeless. So let’s imagine the St Pat’s site with that same vision & ask HRM to transplant Common Roots to Quinpool. 95.7’s Listen to Sheldon MacLeod’s interview with FCH for details. 

 

Time to care for Canada’s oldest, besieged Common – Chronicle Herald Op Ed

We Need More Green Space Not Less- 95.7 Sheldon MacLeod

We need nature. Whether its a plant or a park, the evidence that public open space has important physical and mental health benefits is growing.  But even-tho the Centre Plan wants 30,000+ new residents within HRM’s urban core we are shrinking the Common. On April 24, one day before a public consultation for the Halifax Common, Mayor and Council approved a private pop-up stadium on the Wanderers Grounds. While the field has been used by sports teams since the 1880s it was for amateur players. Now amateur soccer, rugby, football, Frisbee players will have 20% less field time-which by they pay for- so a developer can profit from our Common.

The Halifax Master Plan consultations needs to take inspiration from the work of others by starting with the 1994 Halifax Common plan, planning for the entire Common and expanding our green space.

Common Roots Urban Farm Needs a Home- Think BIG!

In return for the School for the Blind land being given to the VG, citizens were promised a fully landscaped Park within a Park (200 trees & 200 parking places), a scented garden and a landscaped path along the block of Tower Road. Maybe the VG Parking lot can be a new urban farm?

Common Roots Urban Farm will need a new home after this growing season. Plan to attend the public engagement session – Wed, April 11, 7-9 pm, at Citadel High’s Atrium to explore ideas for its future.

Its time to think bigger! That’s how we got the Urban Farm in the first place. Back in 2007 HRM and Capital Health brokered a land swap for the Queen Elizabeth High site even though it was to return to the Halifax Common. The backroom deal was done before any public consultation. FHC challenged the sale of the Common and managed to convince some smart folks at Capital Health that a good interim use would be a farm/garden. Then FHC introduced them to gardening doula Jayme Melrose and slowly after a genuine public engagement process and a lot of hard work the Common Roots Urban Farm grew.

We need more Common not less. Despite growing evidence that public open space is vital for health and well-being HRM’s draft Centre Plan proposes adding 33,000 new residents in the next 15 years without any new public green space or parks, just higher buildings & more shade, especially on and near the Common. And the Health Authority which sits on 50-60 acres of Halifax Common isn’t clear it places any value on open space (unless you count parking lots).
While other cities around the world are creating new parks HRM can only imagine how to sell, give or trade its public lands, surplus schools and even streets on the Peninsula for development.

We are losing ground. The Halifax Common’s open space is already about 20% of the original 235-acre grant. Recently, without any public process, HRM rushed to support a private-for-profit-pop-up-stadium for a professional soccer team on the newly refurbished Wanderer’s Grounds, even though the field is fully booked with amateur players. And days before the consultation for the Halifax Common Master Plan was announced, HRM silently watched Capital Health purchase the CBC TV Building instead of ensuring its return to the Common. There easily another dozen other examples of HRM approved losses.

We can increase public green space by using city-owned land to extend the Halifax Common and expand its green network. Here are 3 ideas for three directions.

  1. West- Selling the former St Pat’s High School site is short-sighted. On Quinpool, next to St Vincent’s seniors’ home it would be a perfect new location for the Farm. Planning for the future it could be the start of a green route all the way to the North West Arm.
  2. East- Create a green park on the Cogswell Interchange that goes from the Halifax Common to the Halifax Harbour. Place the Farm on the Centennial Pool parking lot with a new outdoor pool nearby.
  3. South- Have the city and province honour their 1986 commitment that the former School for the Blind site would a landscaped Park within a Park and public pathway. (see image)

HRM is too careless with our Common. Short term profit is no match for the long-term pay-back of expanding our city’s green space and improving our health, habitat and especially our ability to weather climate change.

So far HRM has not included either the Health Authority, Dalhousie or private lands on the Common in the public consultation process for the Common’s Masterplan. Again this ignores the 1994 Halifax Common Plan. It also pretends that HRM cannot assume its normal government role to regulate planning throughout the entire Common. Being hands-off does not protect the Common but it certainly serves the purposes of developers be they private or institutional.

Its time to cultivate a green attitude. Faced with a dwindling Halifax Common its pretty clear that if we want a Common we better be prepared to defend the Common. Giving away the Common is a bad HRM habit. Every bit counts. So speak up and ask for more not less!

FB event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/374118636330757/everyone who appreciates the farm to help envision the farm’s future at a public engagement session on April 11.

Rick Howe Interview: St Pat’s Land- Plan For Our Future

Common Roots Urban Farm is an inspiration. In 2007 instead of returning the former QEHS land to the Halifax Common as promised, HRM traded it to Capital Health. FHC and smart Capital Health decision-makers agreed that a community garden would be a good interim use. In the 5 years since a valid public consultation, gardening doula Jayme Melrose’s imaginative

In 5 years Jayme Melrose and her team of volunteers have transformed the QEHS land into a place of productive beauty. Let's have a vision for St Pat's that's bigger than a developer's profit.

The QEHS land is now a place of productive beauty. We need a vision for St Pat’s that is bigger than a developer’s profit.

guidance and amazing volunteers have transformed it into a productive, edible landscape. But it’s temporary.
Rick Howe’s interview with Peggy Cameron explains why the Mayor & Council’s decision to sell St. Pat’s is just as short-sighted as the loss of QEHS. Listen to the recording below and then write <clerks@halifax.ca> to tell them to keep the St Pat’s land public.